milestones of interactive infovis

Timelines, Visualization
Credit: Carlos Muza / Unsplash


While human have longer history using charts and illustrations to present data and information, it was not until 1960 interactive information visualization began a pursuit of statisticians. There are factors which post effect on the development of interactive system, one of the most important factors is technology. New technologies and concepts lead to new models, graphics, and target audiences.

This timeline illustrates the earlier development before and slightly over the Millennial. It shows the evolution of the technology and tools.


I used Knight Lab’s Timeline program which allows users use Google Sheet to organize the content of the timeline. When information is added to the Google Sheet, it automatically feeds a Knight Lab timeline. The sheet includes dates, a title, images, descriptions, and source information.

Cover image is from Unsplash. Dates, names, and descriptions were found and arranged through Wikipedia and . Images were procured from the credits.

Methods :

The selection of events are mostly from the list provided by , and a few technological breakout are selected with my own point of view. However, it became difficult to select 5~10 items to present both completely.

Simple imagery was decided from the beginning. After consideration, most events don’t featured a qualified image were being deleted. Most of the milestones of technology had been deleted for the reason they are not the focus of this timeline. However, I kept personal computer and internet as it set a context for the audience about accessibility and popularity changes. The darker color is set as a background color as “an important change just started.”

Proofreading for spelling errors and html errors on the Google Sheet concluded the process.

Results :

link to the timeline

The darker color seems working well to accent the critical changes of the environment, most development were popped-up by the period we finally able to do so. There are some clues in the timeline indicated that not only technology but also the needs are shifting, these clues would be more obvious if more related milestone being added.

The timeline had two groups to allow users to view either technology or interactive infovis development. The group division accommodated two parts because the footprints of informative infovis are layered upon the evolution of technology.

The timeline focuses on the beginnings of interactive information visualization development. It spans about thirty years from 1969 to 1996, thought on the cover it does mention that the Wikipedia claimed that ” Interactive data visualization has been a pursuit of statisticians since the late 1960s .” The timeline covers only the most simplistic events.

Reflections :

Although being supported by informative timeline on Milestones in the history of thematic cartography, statistical graphics, and data visualization, gathering data is not as easy as it seems to be. Selecting events and arranging descriptions is difficult for me since I did not know the exactly size of impact of each break-out with my brief research. Also, It’s challenging to make these events look more relative to each other.

I would have preferred a more interactive way to present the timeline. For example, I would want to add images to illustrate how and what did the function eventually evolved to in modern days. This would give the audience of the timeline concept about what was exactly being founded at the time. I’d also want to add more events and divided them into academic/governmental and popular uses. If the timeline extended to 2019, more and more innovative techniques could be included, and might be related to the evolution on both capability of personal computer and programming languages.

While this timeline represents a limited scope of information visualization development, it may be treated as an entry to understand the footprints of information visualization and could be used to help the audiences acknowledged some core concepts of the techniques.


Friendly, M. & Denis, D. J. (2001). Milestones in the history of thematic cartography, statistical graphics, and data visualization. Web document,